Thursday, February 01, 2007


2006 was not a particularly strong year for horror films. The best flat-out horror film to play in the multiplex, Neil Marshall's spelunking creature-feature - The Descent, was actually a 2005 UK hold-over. Perhaps the real top horror film was Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady's Jesus Camp, a documentary which covers a particularly hard-core brand of Evangelism in the United States. Any subject which has an enthusiastic following (from dog show folks to Star Trek fans) has an extreme branch so focused, the members come off a little bit crazy. Well, Christianity, or any religion for that matter, is no exception and the lady-pastor Becky Fisher and three of her key pupils that Jesus Camp follows may, in her own words, make you 'quake in your boots.'

I've tried to make the below description avoid any sort of soapbox. You be the judge if I was successful or not. Oh and I apologize for using the phrase 'hard-core' far too many times.

From Missouri to North Dakota and I'm sure in most of the 50 states, there is an collection of Evangelical churches and organizations that have one of their key missions to break down the barrier between church and state. A sizable chunk of these folks get out and vote, enough of them to push President Bush into a second term; or protest in Washington against homosexuality or abortion. Jesus Camp brushes these topics by pointing the camera at the "Kids on Fire" summer-camp in (no joke) Devil's Lake, North Dakota. This is not a fun getaway, but hard-core indoctrination to form an Army of God. Pastor Becky Fisher rationalizes that if the extremist Muslims can train their kids to become suicide bombers, surely Christians can muster up a similar discipline for their spiritual (and political) causes. Thus, upon entering the camp, she makes sure that nearly all things secular are thrown out the window. The program is all Jesus all the time. Fisher is indeed hard-core, telling the 10 year olds that there are no fakers in this camp you are 100% or nothing. She believes Harry Potter should be burned at the stake, and all the kids little child-sins must be purged or confronted. This is done mainly through the young ones crying tears of shame or speaking in tongues.

Fisher and the parents of the three principle children, Levi, Tory and Rachel, have expressed publicly that they are all happy with the documentary and how they are captured on film. This I find quite strange, but it illustrates that you bring your own beliefs in how you interpret what is up on screen, they see white, I see black. The camera lets them push their message of creationism = good, science = bad and shows the fever and the ecstasy of the camp kids, in between these same children obviously spewing the evangelical rhetoric which they may or may not understand. However, the documentary also uses odd camera angles and a creepy score that for me personally, make it much more akin to a scary movie than a propaganda piece. And although it is a tad clunky, the doc constantly cross cuts to a liberal Air-America talk radio host, which (I'm pretty sure) give the filmmakers talking-points. Though many critics seem to label Jesus Camp unbiased, I believe that the filmmakers have an agenda (also, which I think in a doc is a very good thing). They are (rightfully so) quite terrified that the land of the free is treading toward the land of the intolerant and in the most ironic of twists the leaders of the path are the ones who fall under the banner of a man who preached kindness and tolerance way back just shy of 2000 years ago.

Ultimately, Jesus Camp is at its best showing the goal/agenda driven camp, and the thin line between teaching children and indoctrinating them; how kids learn is as much driven by social climate as it is by the information itself.

Come out Thursday night and check out the first time KBT presents a documentary. Drinks at 8pm, Trailers and Showtime at 8:30pm. The film runs 84 minutes and that leaves some time for perhaps an interesting post-screening conversation.


Blogger Mark said...

These people are more fascist than Christian. Their fundamentalism has gone beyond simple religious faith into full blown delusion. Did you see those kids worshiping the cardboard cutout of G.W. Bush? These are not the people I want in power with their finger on the red button. They live in a different reality.

1:19 p.m.  

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